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Ivana Gadjanski

researcher and project leader, R&D Center for Bioengineering - BioIRC

TEDCRED 500+

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Mistakes are necessary, aren't they?

Gandhi said: "Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes". And of course, it seems as given, we are free to make mistakes. But are we really? Working in science, I got to witness a lot of examples of frowning upon any mistake. Even if you are just starting a new protocol, something you've never done before, or if you did everything right, but you have negative result to the hypothesis...well, it's still worth mentioning, don't you think? Perhaps not for publishing, but in some cases I wouldn't rule even that out.
Of course, I am not advocating here that people should force making mistakes, not at all, but I am saying that it seems to me it's been so much pressure on everyone "to do it right" immediately, that we somehow seem to have forgotten that everything takes time...or am I wrong? :))

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    Oct 29 2011: Some of the greatest finds came about through an accident of some sort. It just takes the right person to spot the potential/ramifications rather than simply throw it out.
  • Oct 29 2011: People make mistakes. That's why they put erasers on the end of pencils.

    Even monkeys fall out of trees.
  • Oct 29 2011: No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. Problem is to learn from them so when we try again we don't repeat the action that brought on the mistake. I agree with James' comment.
    I'm sure if you research all the inventions over the years that it was a series of mistakes that produced the final result?
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      Oct 29 2011: Good points Carol, Ivana and Gisela,
      And if it took a series of practices or experiments to produce a final result, were they really mistakes? Or simply the process of discovering the final result?

      I believe life is an exploration, and we move through a process in each and every moment, realizing what thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions, words and behaviors we wish to keep, and which we want to leave behind.

      I agree Ivana, that there is "so much pressure on everyone "to do it right" immediately, that we somehow seem to have forgotten that everything takes time...or am I wrong? :))"

      I do not believe you are wrong...I think/feel it is a very insightful observation:>)
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    Oct 29 2011: If you are not making mistakes you are not trying too hard at anything.
  • Oct 30 2011: "Even if you are just starting a new protocol, something you've never done before, or if you did everything right, but you have negative result to the hypothesis...well, it's still worth mentioning, don't you think?"

    Of course, experimental results that disprove the hypotheses are important. Then, do you repeat the experiment, modify it, or modify the hypothesis?

    In my Organic Chemistry class I recall reading about an experiment that gave ambiguous results. When it was repeated in various countries, paradoxically, some experiments gave one result, some another. Years later the cause was discovered, that sometimes the key chemical was contaminated with peroxides. This was important information.
  • Oct 29 2011: When we were children, our parents would tell us not to do certain things like: Don't touch that, it is hot, and various other things to try & keep us safe to at least see our next birthday. But as we got older & got into the work place there generally were not guide lines in certain businesses. So you had to stick your neck out & hope you didn't get it chopped off. Thus came into play the "mistake" syndrome. I have always been a firm believer that when faced with something new, you do have to find out if something will burn you or not. Once you learn that, you can play "parent" and advise others " not to touch that", so to speak. Mistakes lead to advancements and advancements are riddled with past mistakes.
  • Oct 29 2011: In one of the business I owned years ago, I used to want to have my employees offer up suggestions on various projects. Each & every idea was examined from all possible directions to see how it would work or not. If an idea was border line then the idea would get a small production line. If the idea worked -wonderful. If not- then it was scrapped. But much learning came out of this for future referrance. Never rush for perfection until all avenues are explored.
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    Oct 29 2011: As long as you're not a neural surgeon or work at a nuclear power plant.... then yes, make some mistakes. If you're scared of making mistakes you will never take any risks and never grow. Leap of faith!
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    Nov 3 2011: Of course, how would we get stronger and learn?
  • Oct 30 2011: Not necessary, but inevitable. Being afraid of mistakes isone of the worst mistakes you can make.
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    Oct 30 2011: And, sometimes severly painful. But, completly necessary silimar to child birth.
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    Oct 30 2011: Ivana,

    I would submit that Science is a mistake as it is presently practiced. We have the best Science money can buy just like politics. The evidence is overwhelming. Go to the National Science foundation and look at their funded research, and ask yourself, how does this scientific question engage in social relevance? Or how does it address the environmental, economic and social implications simultaneously? Or how does it build on the shoulders of what has come before incorporating all considerations of causes and effects that follow in the wake of science?

    Let me give one example in Forestry Science. About 16 years ago there was a science gathering around the question, how do we create structural diversity in a plantation? This question totally ignores that there was structural diversity in spades in any old growth forest. So why destroy that diversity in order to bring it back? How is that question socially, morally or scientific relevant? Its akin to saying we had to kill the village in order to save it. Yet this line of thinking is pervasive and common place.

    Please shed some light on how science is socially relevant or leading us to a sustainable society?
  • Oct 29 2011: Yes Colleen, I agree with your point about life being an exploration.
  • Oct 29 2011: Once is a mistake. Twice is a pattern. Three times is a partee.
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    Oct 29 2011: Mistake one is O.k., mistake two brings a frown, mistake three and you'd be better off gone. Gone onto something else that is.